Wednesday, September 30, 2015

[Herpetology • 2015] Japalura vela • A New Species of Japalura (Squamata: Agamidae) from upper Lancang (Mekong) Valley of Eastern Tibet, China

Japalura vela   Wang, Jiang & Che, 2015
Sail Moutain Lizard or Sail Japalura | 帆背攀蜥 (Fan Bei Pan Xi)

Figure 1: Dorsolateral close-ups, dorsolateral overviews, and ventral overviews of Japalura vela sp. nov.:
The male holotype KIZ013801 (A, B, and C) and the female paratype KIZ013802 (D, E, and F) in life.
Images not to scale. ||  Photos by Kai WANG.
Figure 7: The microhabitat (A) and macrohabitat (B) of Japalura vela sp. nov.
at the type locality, Quzika, Tibet.  || Photos by Duan YOU.

A new species of the agamid genus Japalura is described based on 15 specimens from the upper Lancang (Mekong) Valley of eastern Tibet, PR China. Populations of the new species, Japalura vela sp. nov., were previously recognized as J. flaviceps. The new species is morphologically most similar to J. batangensis, J. micangshanensis, J. variegata, and J. zhaoermii, but is distinguished from the four species and all remaining congeners by the following combination of morphological characters: 1) small adult size (SVL 56–69 mm in males, 59–66 mm in females); 2) ratio of tail TAL/SVL 1.85–2.06; 3) ratio of hind limb HLL/SVL 0.72–0.81; 4) T4S 24 or 25; 5) concealed tympanum; 6) transverse gular fold present; 7) gular pouch present; 8) axillary fold present; 9) a pronounced, continuous, sail-like vertebral crest along length of body in males; 10) ground dorsal coloration black in males; 11) distinct gray transverse streaks on dorsal surface of head; 12) black radiated streaks around eyes; 13) distinct, black vermiculate stripes on ventral surface of head in both sexes; 14) a strongly jagged dorsolateral stripe from neck to base of tail on each side of vertebral crest in males; and 15) absence of gular spots in both sexes. General distribution patterns of the genus in the Hengduan Mountains region are also discussed.

Keywords:  distribution, Hengduan Mountains, Japalura, J. flaviceps, species complex

Japalura vela sp. nov. Wang, Jiang, Che (Figures 1–6)
Synonymies: Japalura yunnanensis Vogt, 1924: 338 
Japalura flaviceps Hu et al., 1987: 112 
Japalura flaviceps Pope, 1935: 467 
Japalura flaviceps Zhao and Jiang, 1977: 293 –298 
Japalura flaviceps Zhao et al., 1999: 111–115 
Japalura flaviceps Li et al., 2010: 115 
Japalura sp. A Manthey et al., 2012

Distribution and Ecology:  The new species is currently known only from the type locality (Figures 7–8), but it may be found in valleys of adjacent reaches along Lancang Rivers. As a terrestrial species, individuals were observed commonly in rocky areas or steppe-shrub habitat along the arid river valley (Figure 7). Adult males usually basked on high rocks, while adult females and juveniles stayed lower in the rock piles, suggesting possible niche partitioning among different age-groups and between different sexes. Males are territorial, in which the territory holder will perform vertical head-nodding movements and display gular pouch toward the invader, and physical contacts (biting and chasing) will happen if the invader refuses to leave. No territorial behaviors were seen among females or juveniles. Possible predations may come from snakes (Chinese Beauty Snake, Orthriophis taeniurus, KIZ013803, was collected from the same locality) and large birds ( Corvus sp., also commonly observed at this locality).

Etymology:  The Latin word vela means “sail”, which describes the shape of the pronounced and continuous vertebral crest as the diagnostic morphology of the males of the new species. Hence according to the Latin name, we suggest Sail Moutain Lizards or Sail Japalura as its English common name, and Fan Bei Pan Xi (帆背攀蜥 ) as its Chinese common name.

 Kai Wang, Ke Jiang, Gang Pan, Mian Hou, Cameron D. Siler and Jing Che. 2015. A New Species of Japalura (Squamata: Sauria: Agamidae) from upper Lancang (Mekong) Valley of Eastern Tibet, China. ASIAN HERPETOLOGICAL RESEARCH. 6(3):159-168.